Who is Patty Prewitt?
Patty Prewitt is a 71-year-old mother of five, grandmother of thirteen, and a great-grandmother. For the past 34 years, she has been serving a life sentence for the murder of her husband Bill, a crime for which she has unwaveringly maintained her innocence. Patty is not eligible for parole until 2036 when she will be 86. Until then, her only hope of release is for Missouri Governor Mike Parson to grant her clemency.
If she did not commit the murder, why did a jury find her guilty?
Our justice system is not perfect; innocent people go to jail. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, since 1989 there have been more than 2,650 exonerations of individuals wrongly convicted of crimes in the United States; 1,000+ of these individuals were wrongly convicted of murder. These numbers merely represent those who were able to demonstrate their innocence, often through a court of law. No doubt, there are many like Patty who remain in prison despite their innocence.
The causes of wrongful convictions vary. In Patty’s case, the investigation that led to her conviction has the hallmarks of tunnel vision, a primary cause of wrongful convictions where investigators focus on a suspect, select and filter the evidence that will “build a case” for conviction, while ignoring or suppressing evidence that points away from guilt. Investigators ignored leads pointing to an intruder and failed to collect important evidence. Read more about the flaws in the investigation and trial here. Patty’s trial attorney – now a retired judge – shared his perspective here.
Who supports Patty Prewitt’s release?
A broad-based, passionate group of individuals support Patty’s release. She enjoys support from current and former lawmakers from across the political spectrum (See this article by former state Representatives Bill Deeken (Republican) and John Burnett (Democrat)). Her release is supported by religious leaders and prison volunteers. Most importantly, Patty and Bill’s children, who have suffered so much, strongly support their mother’s release.
How much does it cost Missouri to keep Patty Prewitt in prison?
Beyond the incalculable cost of time away from her family and friends, Patty’s incarceration costs the state significant money. The Department of Corrections estimates that it costs $58.85 to keep a prisoner locked up each day. For seniors like Patty, this is a conservative estimate given the increased costs of caring for geriatric prisoners. It is likely that the state will spend upwards of $350,000to keep Patty behind bars through 2036 when she will be eligible for parole, to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of dollars already spent by the state on her incarceration. Wouldn’t this money be better spent to support Missouri teachers or law enforcement rather than keep a woman who is no threat to public safety behind bars?
What is Clemency?
Clemency is the power held by the Governor to pardon or reduce the sentence of those convicted of crimes. Learn more about Governor Parson’s clemency record here.
Does the Governor have to conclude that Patty Prewitt is innocent for him to grant her clemency?
No. Governors have broad power to grant clemency under the Missouri Constitution. The Governor could release Patty because he believes she is innocent. He could release her because he recognizes the flaws in the investigation and trial that led to her conviction. He could release her because he believes that there is no public purpose to her continued incarceration. He could release her because she has already served 34 years for this crime and has an exemplary record over those many years.